By Andrew Frye
Berkshire and its subsidiaries employ about 222,000 people, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company said today in a regulatory filing. That’s 1.3 percent less than the figure the company reported six weeks ago, and almost 10 percent below the 246,083 disclosed in the company’s 2008 annual report.
“If you look at our carpet business, our brick business, our insulation business, all of those businesses have had significant reductions in employment,” Buffett said in an interview in Omaha on Jan. 20. “The day the orders come in, we hire back. But there’s no reason to hire people if they don’t have anything to do.”
Berkshire joins employers including retailers Macy’s Inc. and Home Depot Inc. that have fired workers amid a recession that pushed U.S. unemployment to a 26-year high in October. The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose to 480,000 last week, the most since December, Labor Department figures showed today.
Buffett’s company, with more than 70 subsidiaries, has dismissed workers in the past two years at units that sell pre- fabricated homes, provide flight time on private jets and make paint, furniture and jewelry. The economic slump has also weighed on demand at Berkshire carpetmaker Shaw Industries, brick-maker Acme Building Brands and Johns Manville, maker of building insulation and roofing materials.
‘When Demand Comes Back’
Berkshire provided the latest jobs information in a document tied to its plan to sell $8 billion of senior unsecured debt to help fund the takeover of railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. Buffett, who is Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer, has called the acquisition an “all-in- wager” on the U.S. economy. He didn’t reply to a request today, left with an assistant, for comment on the job cuts.
Berkshire’s Geico Corp., the third-largest auto insurer in the U.S., has added jobs in the past year as the unit attracted new customers, he said in the interview last month. The company’s units will hire “when demand comes back,” he said.
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